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Matthew Darnell faces altered charges, terms in attempted barista kidnapping case

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In a significant development, Matthew Darnell’s legal case has taken a turn as he entered a guilty plea, resulting in altered charges and a set of additional terms related to an attempted kidnapping of a barista in Auburn in January, 2023.

Initially facing a charge of Attempted Kidnapping, Darnell’s plea led to a conviction on the charge of Felony Harassment, both of which fall under the Class C felony category.

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The King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office engaged in discussions with the victim before Darnell’s admission of guilt, outlining the potential resolution for the case. The victim expressed her endorsement of this resolution, underlined by the terms detailed below. This approach, in her view, offered greater safeguards compared to a trial-based conviction.

In the event of a trial resulting in a conviction on the Attempted Kidnapping charge — noting that trial outcomes can be uncertain even in seemingly straightforward cases — Darnell’s sentence would have been consistent with statewide sentencing guidelines. These guidelines hinge on the offender’s criminal record, with more felony convictions leading to higher offender scores. If found guilty of Attempted Kidnapping, Darnell could have faced a sentence ranging from 4.5 to 9.5 months.

However, had a trial resulted in a conviction, it would not have included mandatory supervision by the Department of Corrections (community custody). Furthermore, provisions like a stand-alone criminal no-contact order, warranting arrest upon violation, and mandatory treatment would not have been on the table.

By opting for a guilty plea on Felony Harassment, accompanied by the victim’s support, Darnell accepted additional terms beyond his custody time. The terms included:

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  • A standard statewide range of 1–3 months, applicable to an offender score of 0 as designated by state legislators.
  • 12 months of Department of Corrections supervision, a condition uncommon in sentences shorter than 12 months’ imprisonment.
  • Mandatory continuation of mental health treatment, alongside custody time, with quarterly proof of compliance required.
  • Violation involving drug or alcohol use would prompt court action.

Furthermore, Darnell agreed to a lifetime civil protection order with the victim, extending until the year 2123. Violation of this order constitutes an arrestable offense, possibly resulting in a gross misdemeanor charge. In contrast, a trial-based conviction would have led to a maximum 5-year no-contact order, lacking the standalone charge option upon violation.

Prosecutors said they discussed all stipulations with the supportive victim, solidifying her endorsement of the Felony Harassment resolution.

The court-imposed $500 penalty serves as a mandatory victim penalty assessment, standard in all felony cases.

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Regarding sentencing ranges, they are established by state legislators.

Prosecutors routinely apprise victims of such cases about the choices available, highlighting the additional conditions a defendant might consent to through a guilty plea, as compared to the potential sentence and supervision subsequent to trial. The victim’s backing of this resolution was grounded in her perception of increased protection compared to a trial-based conviction.

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